There’s a firm focus on the future of our team. This only increases with the current incarnation falling so short of what is expected of Arsenal Football Club.
There are bright spots of course, and the likes of Emile Smith-Rowe, Martinelli, Partey, Gabriel, Tierney and of course, Saka, are reasons why we can look forward with some form of optimism.
In terms of strikers though, the emphasis is most definitely on what we have right now, rather than on the horizon.
To put it plainly, we are approaching a crossroads. Alexandre Lacazette, our current number9, approaches the point in his contract where he can speak to other teams freely. Our captain, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, can deliver his hefty amount of goals probably for another two seasons on top of this one. If he follows the example of Jamie Vardy, perhaps more.
But these two players do have uncertainty surrounding them for the future. Will we persevere with Laca? Will Auba continue to avoid injury and deliver what he has done throughout his career? As his legs lose that yard of pace, can he harness that striking acumen to become a more all-round player that doesn’t rely so much on his lightning reactions?
At this moment, we may be pinning our hopes on three options.
One – Martinelli converts to a number9. The Brazilian has the talent, but that is a lot of pressure.
Two – We stick with Eddie Nketiah.
Three – Folarin Balogun is pushed forward as the best option.
With Martinelli, he has the instinct for goals – in his first season before his injury, he showed his goalscoring exploits and his ability to sniff out a chance. E is still a tad on the raw side though, and there is risk involved.
For Eddie, he is now in the last chance saloon. Nketiah is the record goalscorer for the England Under-21’s and he has impressed Arteta, but he does now find himself back behind Lacazette in the pecking order, after the Frenchman’s revival in form. Eddie couldn’t take advantage of his chances and now finds minutes hard to come by. He isn’t the quickest or strongest, but he does have that natural ability to find those scoring positions. He just needs to improve his accuracy and he may have a future with us. As first choice though? He has some work to do.
There is a huge clamour for Balogun to be given his chance. In the short cameos he made in the Europa League, he has impressed and his U-23 scoring record is frightening. But in the midst of negotiations, you would think Arteta would give him more minutes to convince him to stay? And yet Balogun seems no nearer to making that breakthrough.
Is Balogun the real deal? The trouble is, we don’t know as all we can gauge him on are those sub appearances he made and his reserves goal record – which can’t be compared to the top flight.
Arteta may well be unconvinced by both and will be looking in the market for a striker. But finding a reliable goalscorer is notoriously hard. Do we have the answers sitting on our bench right now?
They – and we – need the minutes on the pitch to find out.